talking comics with tim
This Thursday, September 20, marks the release of writer Jeff Parker and artist Gabriel Hardman‘s standalone story for the digital-first Legends of the Dark Knight out-of-continuity Batman series. I actually found out a few months ago that Parker and Hardman were taking a dip in the DC Comics pool with this story “Gotham Spirit.” As an unabashed supporter of the storytellers, I begged for a chance to interview the two of them. Parker and Hardman agreed, but only with the stipulation it would be a different kind of interview, one in which the subjects guided the discussion. As with many of Parker’s ideas, I found this to be a great concept and I expect you will agree. Thanks to the creators for the interview — and to DC for allowing Robot 6 to show a few preview panels.
Independent comics are vastly different from comics published by the likes of Marvel and DC in one major way: Fill-in creators are rarely, if ever, an option. If a creator cannot make his or her deadline that month, the issue is delayed. The creative team of Image’s Danger Club — writer Landry Walker, artist Eric Jones and colorist Rusty Drake — recently announced an upsetting and reasonable cause for the delay in the release of the fourth issue. As detailed on Walker’s blog: “Several weeks ago two of colorist Michael (Rusty) Drake’s kids were hit by a truck while riding their bikes home from the store. The short version is that they are both okay. The longer version is that Rusty’s son suffered a brain contusion and his daughter an injured ankle. This meant several days of stress and uncertainty. Things are better now, and both kids are home from the hospital and receiving continued treatment.”
While fortunately the children are recovering, Drake’s need to focus on his children’s care has not only delayed Issue 4, but has created a domino effect on the production of subsequent issues. The creative team is struggling to get back on schedule, and when I learned about the situation I offered to help them get the word out with an interview. Drake, a freelance creator with a full-time job and family demands, was unable to participate, but Walker and Jones were happy to discuss the delay and why there was never an option to proceed without Drake’s involvement in Danger Club. Also, while I had their attention, I decided to learn a little bit more about this dark series (a departure for the creative team) in which all the heroes left Earth for space to battle a horrific evil and never came back, leaving the teenage sidekicks to face the approaching danger.
But before diving into my questions, Landry wanted to stress one thing: “I should mention that Issue 4 is 100 percent complete. I haven’t been told the date it will be released, but it should be only a few weeks, tops.” The creative team clearly appreciates the readers’ patience. As an outside observer, I hope this interview gives some perspective on the delay, as well as the struggles independent creators face.
Once and a while a comic drops in my inbox that carries some distinct element that snags my interest. LP, by writer Curt Pires and artist Ramon Villalobos, focuses on the life of a musician named F and the LP he possesses, which has unique qualities — far more unique than your average round piece of vinyl. The comic, which Pires is self-distributing, debuts Sept. 26 (it received a pre-release endorsement from guest Ed Brisson in this week’s What Are You Reading?”). In anticipation of its release, Pires took some time to answer my questions regarding his new collaboration with Villalobos — as well as to give me a chance to discuss music a smidge (something I always love to do).
Tim O’Shea: LP centers on a vinyl record (aka LP) — could this story have ever worked for you if it had centered around a CD or an MP3 player?
Curt Pires: I definitely think this story only works on vinyl. There’s something romantic about vinyl — something tactile. Something that you don’t really get with CDs or MP3s. I think a lot of my thoughts as towards this are sort of folded into the story. Sometimes intentionally — other times maybe not so much.
Did you have the story already written when you teamed with Ramon Villalobos, or did you construct the story with his art style in mind?
I had the full script written by the time Ramon had hoped on board to draw the book. I was definitely looking for someone with a bit more of European clean line style to draw this book. I’m a huge fan of this style of art. So Ramon’s sort of Darrow/Grampa/Quitely-influenced style was perfect for this book.
On Wednesday, Kickstart Comics (not to be confused with Kickstarter) will release Duplicate, the new graphic novel from writer Mark Sable and artist Andy MacDonald. The publisher describes the project as follows: “A seemingly ordinary family man sees his doppelganger and realizes he’s a clone. But not just any clone. A duplicate of the world’s deadliest secret agent. A decoy designed to spend time with The Agent’s family and otherwise provide cover while the spy is off saving the world.”
In addition to answering my questions about Duplicate, Sable was kind enough to share a slew of exclusive unlettered preview pages, which you will find at the end of the interview.
Tim O’Shea: Given that your publisher Kickstart is not one of the Big Two, I was pleasantly surprised to see they have priced your 88-page original graphic novel, Duplicate, at $8.99. Are you hoping the price point will give indie-comics fans more incentive to give the story a try?
Mark Sable: I hope most readers will check out the book for my story or Andy MacDonald’s art, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope that the price point would be an extra reason to take a chance on the Duplicate. It’s Kickstart’s first foray into a full-size OGNs after doing digest-sized books like Rift Raiders (my previous OGN for them with Julian Totino Tedesco). I think in an economy like this, with 20 page single issues costing $3.99 or more each, having a complete story arc for $8.99 is our chance to compete with value as well as quality.
Next month will see the release of the final installment in Van Jensen‘s and Dusty Higgins‘ Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer series of books, Of Wood and Blood, Part Two. To mark this milestone as well as find out what creative projects he intends to pursue in the future, I cajoled longtime friend of the blog Jensen to do an interview. I was pleased to learn that while Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer is coming to a close, Joe Pimienta is illustrating Jensen’s upcoming graphic novel, The Leg. More immediately, Jensen will be busy this upcoming weekend in Atlanta–as he will be at Dragon*Con, so be sure to visit him if you are there.
Tim O’Shea: You’re ending Pinocchio on a high note, while the project seems to still be doing well. Why step away — and how hard was it to do?
Van Jensen: When Dusty and I were working on the first volume, I came up with this notion of how to explain where Pinocchio came from (the original story has him as a sentient piece of wood that is carved into a puppet, not a puppet that’s magically brought to life) and tie that into the origin of the vampires. We realized it would make a perfect contained storyline; the question was always whether the book would sell enough for us to explore the whole story.
Back in July when Mark Waid announced that Thrillbent — his digital comics portal — would be ramping up to phase two (as detailed in CBR News Editor Kiel Phegley’s recent Waid interview), I hoped writer Tom Peyer would be part of the mix. Soon enough, I discovered that indeed Peyer was writing Clown Tales, a horror story set to launch this fall. The story should be interesting on many levels, given that this marks Peyer’s first foray into writing horror — and that clowns bored him as a child (as I learned in this interview). While I had Peyer’s attention I also asked him about getting to recently write for TV (on DC Nation/Cartoon Network’s Doom Patrol interstitials) and working for Stephen Colbert back in 2007. Added bonus, at one point Peyer taunts clowns in our discussion.
Tim O’Shea: Was Clown Tales already in the work before you signed onto Thrillbent, or was it developed just for the site?
Tom Peyer: A few years ago I wrote some short horror stories, mainly to see if I would enjoy it. A publisher was planning a clown horror anthology that didn’t end up happening, but I put clowns in some of them just in case. I’d written humor and superheroes, but I’d never gone near horror before. I had a great time and I liked how they came out. It felt like taking a new route to the humor and pathos I always try to write toward anyway. But it felt more direct, maybe because I hadn’t taken that route before.
Since the first time I hung out with Monkeybrain Books founders Allison Baker and Chris Roberson at the Westin hotel bar during HeroesCon a few years back, I have longed to do a joint interview with them. While their publishing house Monkeybrain Books has been in existence since 2001, in July Baker and Roberson launched a creator-owned comiXology-distributed digital imprint, Monkeybrain Comics. While much is known of Roberson, not everyone knows Baker’s background. As detailed at their company website: “Allison Baker has worked in feature film and political media production for more than 13 years, while also managing the day-to-day operations of Chris Roberson and Monkeybrain Books.” Please allow me to apologize in advance for not quizzing Roberson about my new favorite Monkeybrain work of his, Edison Rex. Update: After I finished posting this article, Monkeybrain announced that tomorrow (August 14) would mark the release of a 99-cent autobiographical story by Kurt Busiek, Thoughts on A Winter Morning, drawn by Steve Lieber (a story which was originally appeared in Negative Burn: Winter 2005).
Tim O’Shea: Which came first, the decision to move to Portland or the decision to move Monkeybrain into the digital realm?
Allison Baker: The move to PDX was definitely decided first. Monkeybrain Comics started out as an idea and theory, trying to solve a lot of the problems creators run into when working within a traditional publishing model. The final piece of the puzzle came to us at the end of last year. After that we started actively putting it all together in the beginning of 2012.
Chris Roberson: Yeah, we’d been planning our move to Portland for well over a year, and talking about it for a year or two before that. The germ of the idea that would eventually become Monkeybrain Comics was planted around the same time, but didn’t take its final form as a digital comics imprint until the end of last year.
I look forward to a day when there’s no substantial imbalance between the number of successful male characters/creators and successful female characters/creators in comics. When I get a chance to talk about a book with a female lead, I make sure to discuss that very aspect. I was clearly not thinking of who I was asking when I interviewed Jamie S. Rich, writer of the new Image ongoing series launching Wednesday, It Girl & the Atomics. As Rich was quick to remind me, earlier in his comics career as an editor he consistently “hired women all the time and published comics that showcased their point of view”. An equally interesting aspect of the project we discuss is being the writer who crafts Mike Allred/Madman universe tales (without Madman) but with Allred’s support and trust (a hell of a compliment/endorsement in and of itself). In addition to reading this interview, please be sure to garner additional insight from CBR’s TJ Dietsch’s July interview with Rich.
To mark this Wednesday’s launch of the series, Rich will be visiting three different hometown comic book stores to sign comics and chat with customers. The three shops where he will be sign It Girl & the Atomics 1 ($2.99) are Floating World Comics (from approximately 2 pm to 3:30 pm) at 400 NW Couch, Bridge City Comics (4 pm to 5 pm) at 3725 N. Mississippi, and Cosmic Monkey Comics (from 6 pm to 7 pm) at 5335 NE Sandy.
Tim O’Shea: It Girl and the Atomics is a book that captures the Madman universe (without Madman, as he left the world for space at the end of his own series). How well does it speak of Mike Allred’s world-building/writing skills that you are able to create a series in Madman’s world, but without Madman?
Jamie S. Rich: That was really the experiment. Madman has such a gravitational pull, particularly for Mike as an artist, that he really has a tendency to dominate. Yet, the Atomics are a team, and in any successful team, all the players are there for a reason. So, when it’s their turn in the spotlight, they are just as capable, they are ready to take that stage.
This week I catch up with Amelia Cole and the Unknown World co-writers D.J. Kirkbride and Adam P. Knave, who were part of the first round of Monkeybrain Comics creative releases on July 2. With Issue 2 poised to launch Aug. 7, it struck me as a good time to interview Kirkbride and Knave. Here’s the official nutshell description of the series: “Amelia Cole lives in two worlds — literally. One runs on magic, the other built on technology. When the barriers between those worlds start to break down, Amelia and her aunt Dani must take extreme action.” Before you read the interview, I must stress there is some spoiler info connected to Dani in this interview, so please do not read the interview if you have yet to pick up the first issue. My thanks to the co-writers for their time.
Tim O’Shea: Whom approached who, did the Amelia Cole team seek out Monkeybrain or vice versa?
Adam P. Knave: We’ve known [Monkeybrain Comics'] Chris [Roberson] and Allison [Baker] for a while now and so we kept in touch, you know, the way people do. So when we started Amelia Cole (originally we were thinking of doing it as a web comic) we sent them the first issue just to kind of go “Hey, this is what we’re working on.” no higher purpose, just friends sharing creative endeavors with friends.
D.J. Kirkbride: Yeah, Chris and Allison are good peoples, and we were curious as to what they thought of our book. We’re fans of Chris’s writing, too, so we were a little nervous. Well, I was. Adam’s nerves, like his beard, are made of steel.
Knave: And then one day we got an email explaining the whole Monkeybrain thing and asking if we were interested. So Amelia herself sought them out, except none of us knew it at the time.
Kirkbride: Ooh, that sounds magical.
Longtime readers of this column know that I relish the chance to interview beyond the typical creative interview dynamic of writers and artists periodically. So soon after I found out SCAD Atlanta Adjunct Professor and Professional Colorist Nolan Woodard was part of the Thrillbent’s Insufferable creative team (along with writer Mark Waid, artist Peter Krause and Letterer Troy Peteri), I reached out to him for an interview. We also delve into his BOOM! Studios work (including Incorruptible, Irredeemable, Planet of the Apes) and other aspects of his creative pursuits
Tim O’Shea: How early in life did you realize you wanted to be a colorist?
Nolan Woodard: I never really sought to specifically be a colorist but it’s been no surprise to anyone who knows me. When I was twelve or so I’d use Windows 3.1 Paintbrush to make digital drawings, lots of Aliens and Terminators. Then in college where I was introduced to Photoshop 3, I ate up the digital courses. By the time I graduated and landed a job in advertising at Wieden+Kennedy, I was learning Photoshop on a scale I previously didn’t know existed, doing retouching and color correction on their Nike, EA and Starbucks accounts. When the time came for me to follow my heart and get back into comics, coloring was a no-brainer.
Former Marvel editor Aubrey Sitterson has made the leap to the wonderful world of freelance writing. To mark this critical career jump, Sitterson stopped by Talking Comics with Tim to discuss his transition from editor to writer, as well as his current and upcoming projects — namely the Gear Monkey tale (by Sitterson with art by Nate Lovett) that appears in DoubleFeature Comics‘ digital release Fantasy Double Feature #3, and Redakai (for Viz Media). I was interested to learn why Sitterson lettered his own Gear Monkey tale, as well as to discuss his love of wrestling.
Tim O’Shea: You started out in the industry on the editorial side, but am I correct in assuming it was always in hopes of pursuing a full-time writing career?
Aubrey Sitterson: You’re ab-so-lutely correct, sir. While I really enjoyed my time editing comics, the goal has always been to transition into a comics writer. It was all part of my devious master plan to start at Marvel as an intern in college, get hired as an Assistant Editor, stick my finger in as many pies as I could, learn at the knee of two of comics’ best editors (Tom Brevoort and Axel Alonso) then strike out on my own in pursuit of Complete and Utter Comics Domination. I’m still working on that last part.
The hardworking writer Fred Van Lente gets even more busy in the next few months. In October, as discussed (in a Van Lente interview) in last Friday’s Axel-In-Charge, the writer will team with artist Alessandro Vitti in a holiday-themed one-shot, Marvel Zombies Halloween. But more immediately, on August 8, Valiant Entertainment will release the first issue (previewed last week by CBR) of the new Archer & Armstrong ongoing, teaming Van Lente with artist Clayton Henry. Given my love of Van Lente’s brand of comedy and the knowledge that the series teams an 18-year old assassin with a soused immortal, I fired up the computer to conduct an email interview with Van Lente. I have to say that Van Lente catches my attention when he said in our exchange: “I’ve never written a book like this.”
Tim O’Shea: Would it be fair to say that Valiant sought you out for Archer & Armstrong based partially on the success and tone of your co-writing gig on Hercules?
Fred Van Lente: Yeah, I’ve got a reputation now as the funny superhero guy, even though Incredible Hercules started out as a story about a guy trying to atone for murdering his entire family — Judd Apatow, are you reading this?!
If memory serves, what made Warren Simons think I’d be right for Archer & Armstrong was my Taskmaster GN, which is a classic example of me getting my hands on a character and thinking, “Okay, this is my chance to do a straight-up thriller, do a real grim and gritty thing here.”
But the more I worked on it the more the crazy ideas creeped in until it had a town full of Hitlers and characters like Don of the Dead and Redshirt, the Überhenchman and I was like, “Boy, you really screwed that up, Fred” but it’s become the most beloved thing I’ve done at Marvel, at least in terms of people tracking me down and saying how much they enjoyed it. So, what are you going to do?
It’s been almost three years since writer/artist Mike Dawson and I last talked (back then our focus was on Ace-Face: The Mod with the Metal Arms and 2008′s Freddie & Me). In this 2012 round, we pitch a tent around his latest Secret Acres release Troop 142, the story of one week at a boy scout camp and its impact on the boys attending as well as the men running it. Dawson is a great interviewer in his own right (as we discuss briefly), so I was a tad nervous in trying to generate my queries. It was also refreshing to understand his stepping away from social media to the benefit of his creative efforts. My thanks to Dawson for his time and perspective, especially the book’s evolution from webcomic to printed bound edition.
Tim O’Shea: I gotta be honest, reading this book a week before my son goes off to scout camp was not the best thing for me to read. Many of the kids straddle the line between being insecure and total jerks (as all kids will be). But all the characters had redeeming values (of course)- – how challenging was it to strike a balance of positives and negatives with the characters?
Mike Dawson: I think that’s one of the few aspects of writing that comes easily to me. People are a mix of positive and negative values, and even then it’s subjective. It’s important to me to try to show different sides of a character. I think readers first impulses would be to dislike a lot of these characters, especially some of the adults in the beginning of the story, and my hope is to bring them around a little bit, and see them as more complex.
A major benefit of sharing a town with Savannah College of Art and Design Atlanta is that when one of the school’s professors has a new book, if I am lucky they want to do an interview. That’s the case this week, with sequential art/foundation studies Prof. Doug Dabbs, who recently celebrated the release of Holliday (Oni Press), his collaboration with writer Nate Bowden. The creative team’s project is a modern-day noir-ish reworking of the town of Tombstone and the distinctive life of Doc Holliday. Thrown into the mix is Wyatt Earp, Curly Bill and, of course, a standoff. Once you’ve enjoyed the interview, please be sure to check out Oni’s 16-page preview of the book.
When Marvel wants to tell zombie tales, writer Frank Marraffino has been a go-to person in recent years, as exemplified first by last year’s Marvel Zombies Supreme miniseries as well as the upcoming Marvel Zombies Destroy, a five-issue miniseries that launches this Wednesday, May 9. In this new email interview, Marraffino discusses writing the first two issues of the miniseries (in which Howard the Duck, Dum-Dum Dugan team up with a dozen heroes to fight Nazi Zombies) and details the health issues that prevented him from writing the remainder of the miniseries. I was pleased to learn Marraffino is feeling better and happy to discuss his work as well as the thrill of having industry veteran Peter David step into take over the project. Once you’ve read the interview, please be sure to check out CBR’s recent four-page preview of the first issue.
Tim O’Shea: What is it about zombies and dark comedy that make them work so well together?
Frank Marraffino: Maybe the fact that the threat comes from something that is falling apart. That is a little funny. The menace is one to itself also!